Icy Roads and Trails – Is Salt or Sand Better To Get Moving?


Getting stuck on an icy road or trail can definitely put a damper on any winter wheeling fun in your off-road truck or Jeep.

Even when you bring recovery gear and shovels for digging out, that won’t always work when your tires are spinning on ice.

There are two trains of thought on remedying that one: road salt or sand.

Is one better than the other for getting the tires on your off-road truck gripping again? Let’s find out!

How Does Road Salt Help?

Salting an icy road helps off-road trucks or Jeeps in two ways:

  1. If the road is not yet icy, sodium chloride lowers the temperature at which roads actually freeze over, keeping them wet instead.
  2. If the road is already iced over, the salt will start to melt the ice since water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and salt water at 20 degrees.

As long as the road surface is not below 20 degrees, salting can help; however, the colder the road, the slower that process will take place.

When the road is already significantly colder than 20 degrees, sodium chloride will not do much to melt anything and the granules just embed in the ice as they are driven on.

When the road temperature goes above 20 degrees, the salt will activate and start melting any ice covering it.

How Does Sand Help?

The benefit that sand, or even kitty litter, on an icy road provides to your off-road truck or Jeep is purely one of traction.

By spreading sand around and then driving on it, the sand grains get pressed into the top of the ice and roughen up the surface a little bit, affording better traction.

It is an ideal choice for off-road trucks when the road and ice is too cold for the salt to do anything.

Sand can still work if the temperatures go up a small amount and melting begins.

If the ice melts a little bit and then freezes again, the sand keeps it slightly rougher; however, if a lot of melting happens then the sand eventually just gets washed away.

Which Is Better to Use?

Based on how they both work, salt is the better option for off-road trucks or Jeeps when the ground temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit as it will actively melt ice because the higher the temperature, the faster it works.

When it is too cold for the salt to do anything, sand is best as it creates traction right on the surface of the ice.

Considering this, it just may be better to put both along in your off-road truck or make a mixture to get the benefits of both with no question as to when one should be applied versus the other.

Pack Off-Roaders With The Right Mixture

When headed out to the trails in the snow this winter or just driving around on back roads in your modded off-road truck and want to be ready in case ice becomes a problem, there are a few things that can be done to deal with it.

Chains or spikes can be used while off-road; however, when on-road or hitting icy patches on the trail, road salt and sand can help, too.

A 50/50 mixture of sand and road salt is the perfect ice remedy to put in the back of your off-road truck and while you’re at it, remember that weight over the rear wheels will provide more traction as well.

A couple of sand bags or bags of kitty litter over the wheels is one more way that these things can help when the ice is a little too slick!

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